Fountain Pen Sketching Part 1: Introduction

December 1, 2015 | 47 Comments

Most of my work comes under the category of ‘ink and wash’ and it is the relationship between the ink lines and the watercolour washes that I find the most exciting part of this way of working. However, most of the information posts on my blog to date have been about the ‘wash’ side of the equation (such as how to set up a 12 colour palette) and apart from a few explorations in coloured ink earlier this year, I have not seriously tackled the ink component and in particular the use of fountain pens.

So… I am very excited to start a new series today on fountain pen sketching! 

This is something I have been thinking about for well over a year and as it is such a big topic that it was always in the too hard basket. But over the past few months I have been working with Goulet Pens to put together some main thoughts about why fountain pens are so good for sketching, to give a few important tips and to make a few personal recommendations of pens. My original idea was to write one post entitled “Why EF, Why Lamy?” But of course, in true Liz-style, the plan has got bigger – much bigger!

There is a LOT of amazing content out there about fountain pens that it can almost be overwhelming. So I wanted to simplify it to the aspects I believe are the most important for sketchers and to share my personal preferences. I am not going to try to repeat information that is dealt with elsewhere and so wherever possible I will be linking to Goulet’s videos.

I have spent hours going through Goulet’s extensive resources and youtube channel, filling in the gaps of my knowledge and collecting the most relevant links! I have also gone through their extensive range of pens to see if there are a few potential sketching pens that I haven’t tested … ha! are you surprised by that?

Please note: This is not a sponsored post, and although I will be linking to Goulet videos and to their pen listings, none of these are affiliated links. I simply wanted to work with Goulet Pens because I greatly admire what they do – their amazing personal service, extensive range of pens and inks, in-depth pen reviews and especially their generosity and commitment to free educational content. Goulet kindly sent me two Noodlers Konrad pens and one of their maintenance kits to test, but I am not receiving any payment for this series of blog posts.

I do not consider myself a fountain pen expert, although preparing these posts has expanded my knowledge a lot, but I have used them since I was 10 years old. I wrote my high school notes using an old Parker pen of my dad’s and when I went to university, my design tutor often stole my cheap Shaeffer pen for the day because it was so good to draw with. As an architect most of the hand drawn drawings that went out of the office were completed with fine liner pens, but all my design drawings and many of my handwritten notes were done using a fountain pen.

So it was only natural when I started sketching (thanks to Danny Gregory) and read that he used a Lamy Safari pen that I bought one online straightaway. Only a few weeks later I went into a fountain pen store here in Sydney (sadly now closed) to check to see if this was really the best option and the owner suggested that I might like the balance of the Lamy Joy calligraphy pen. I did! He sold me one with an extra fine nib (rather than the calligraphy nib it comes with) and well… the rest is history!

My White Joy is my ‘go-to’ pen and an important part of my kit (I chose the white because I lost two  Black Joy pens a few years ago). When I put this pen in my hand I just want to start sketching and it truly feels like an extension of me – my pen and I are one and we start going places! On my second visit to the above mentioned pen shop, the same man sold me a gold nib but for many years I was too afraid to take it out sketching. However after buying the White Joy I decided it was time to start using it regularly. So my White Joy (with gold nib) travels with me everywhere now!

And when I take on-location photos of my sketches, my White Joy always seems to get in the frame. It has become one of my trademarks. Aside: I just love the name of the pen too – Joy!

But just to make it clear, I am not saying that this pen is THE ONE PEN for everyone, but just that I am nuts about it! (Have you realised that fact yet?)

The point of this series is to show you that fountains pens open up many possibilities for you to find a tool that really suits YOU. I truly believe that when your pen becomes an extension of you, your work can start to flow out of you more freely. And as we will see in Part 2, the flow of ink on the page is pretty special too.

What will I be looking at in this series?
Part 2. Why draw with a fountain pen?
Part 3. Using a fountain pen
Part 4. Choosing a fountain pen
Part 5. Basic fountain pens
Part 6. Fountain pens with variable lines 1
Part 7. Fountain pens with variable lines 2

So today I am just doing an introduction –  here are some links to keep you going:

The best introduction to Fountain Pens and recommended viewing for anyone who uses them is Goulet’s Fountain Pen 101 videos.
And feel free to email them if you have any fountain pen questions

Some other sketchers who have written great posts about fountain pens:

(if you know of some more to add to this list please include in the comments section and I will keep this list updated)

Click here for Part 2: Why draw with a fountain pen?

Once you have a fountain pen you will have to start drawing with it!
If you would like to learn the fundamentals and the start urban sketching please check out my Foundations online course.


  • Liz Steel says:

    thanks Frank – hope you are going well!

  • Liz Steel says:

    Ah perfect timing. It is better that you haven't loaded it up and neglected it full of ink… than resting in its box. time to get it out hey?

  • Liz Steel says:

    thanks helena – that is my goal and what I love doing!

  • Liz Steel says:

    thanks I will!

  • Liz Steel says:

    some blog posts stick in your memory… like that one you did!

  • Liz Steel says:

    the gold is only along the tines. and yes that grip isn't for everyone. I have some other pens to share….

  • Liz Steel says:

    check out my current sketching tools page for more details- it is an EF not a calligraphy nib. you normally have to buy the nib separately

  • Liz Steel says:

    yes _ will be mentioning a lot of those things. and thanks for replying Kate while I was sleeping! Yes sounds like the body is not sealed. I just did my first recently did my first eye dropper to a preppy. More later…

  • Liz Steel says:

    thank you!

  • Jim Serrett says:

    Thanks, looking foreword to it.

  • ol'red says:

    This looks promising and I'm looking forward to reading your comments. Thanks for your posts.
    Frank B

  • Tonya says:

    Oh, I'm so looking forward to this "series," Liz. As a total beginner (who started your Foundations course but life got in the way and I'm still not past the first lesson…sigh), I bought the Lamy Safari as well as Joy from Goblet (with converters) as a treat for myself. But I've not even opened the boxes. Your series will be just right to allow me to dip my toes into the ink–and relieve my buyer's guilt 😉

  • hfm says:

    Thanks, Liz, for this post I've begun do see the vídeos. A good work you are doing for all of us.

    Helena Monteiro

  • Check out Leigh Reyes –she does sketching AND calligraphy beautifully and her videos are something to see.

  • Anne-Laure says:

    Thank you so much for answering me, dear Kate. 🙂 The leaking issues I am talking about, for an eye dropper conversion, are not where the body is screwed (I use silicon grease for that and it seems to work well : in my Pilot parallel pens, it is) but at the end of the pen body.
    Sailors pens seem to leak here, at the end (opposite to the cap). I tried putting some water in it, as a test, and then were able to confirm the body is not leak proof when my convertor leaked!…

  • Oooh, and thanks for the link to my reviews, I just noticed it! I really need to update, I keep exploring…

  • Goulet carries tiny O-rings that might help with your leaking/eye dropper conversion–and sorry for nibbing in on your post, Liz!

  • Oooh, can't wait for the last two in the series! LOVE some flex!!

    Thanks so much for doing this, Liz, it's going to be so useful. (I was really sorry the Lamy's triangular grip is so uncomfortable with the way I hold a pen. 🙁 )

    Your gold nib looked like it had something between the tines…what am I seeing?

  • Stella says:

    Hi Liz, As a fellow-left-hander, I shall be devouring these pen posts! It is something of a holy grail for me to find a pen I can draw and write with that makes me happy. Wasted so much money! I have seen a Lamy Joy for sale with a 1.1 nib – is that the "extra fine" you refer to? Thanks for all the research on our behalf.

  • Anne-Laure says:

    Hi Liz !

    This series is a very good idea. ????

    I was thinking of asking you a question about fountain pen using, actually. 😉

    Will you talk about converter use in the "Using a fountain" post ?
    I am wondering how do you handle it, with the quantity of sketches you make. Obvisouly, it's amazing to be able to choose our ink but… don't you think converters use is really annoying?!

    I always fear to make a mess with the waterproof ink when dipping the pen in the bottle, and I admit that having to wipe the nib each time bothers me too, because of the loss of ink, the messy thing (tissue full of ink…). Like you, I am not a stationery geek wanting absolutely to have shiny pen with clean nibs as if they were brand new, but the always inky nib is a little annoying too. Do you have to fill your pens each evening (especially your Lamy Joy)? Or, as you have many pens, every few days is enough?
    Converters are so small…
    Do you have some tricks to a less bothered use of fountain pen convertors?

    I would like to use some of my fountain pens as eye droppers (will you talk about that too ? ???? ) but… (BTW : I love fude nib pens. ???? )
    My Hero pen has flowing issues (it seems to be a common problem… Not nice !…) so I have to frequently push the ink into the pen with the converter… And that is not possible using it as an eye dropper.
    The Sailors bodies are not leak proof so you can’t using them as eye droppers (I am thinking of trying to seal the end of the body with some multimorph plastic stuffed inside of it… which would be very useful, ad the Sailor converters are leaking!!…). About that, if the Sailor converters are bad (it seems that this issue is about new converters, from a few months ago and sold by now so you might not have the problem is your have older ones), can I use my pens with another converter ? Do you think you could provide some information about converter and pens compatibility, as you own many brands of fountain pen ? (for example, will it works and not gets me in trouble if I try to use a Lamy or a Hero converter in a Sailor pen ?)

    By the way, I just bought a Duke pen but it’s too soon for me to say anything about it…

    Sorry for my English and thanks for your blog, Liz! ????

  • Liz Steel says:

    my pleasure Martin… and amazing to have a collection of old pens… I would be hestiant about puttting pigmented ink in without getting some expert advice.

  • Liz Steel says:

    all will be revealed soon. Leaks are not something that happen much for me and I will be sharing my new strategery for easy clean and storage of pens

  • Liz Steel says:

    ha! Tina, you have probably tried more than I have! And your epic pen search was truly epic!!

  • MiataGrrl says:

    Wow, this is going to be a terrific series — I might find out there are more pens I MUST try! 😉 I'm thrilled that you referenced my "epic" series! Thanks!


  • I like the idea of fountain pens for the variety of line weight, but I have found them unreliable if not used regularly, they dry out before I get to use up the ink. I tend to carry brush pen markers or micron products because they wont leak and are always ready to go. I am curious about how fountain pen artists handle them…do you refill them every day? You have a lot of pens so do they dry out or do you flush out the ink when you are not using them regularly and just fill them when you are going to use them?

  • Great topic Liz. I love my collection of old 1940's various flex fountain pens. I haven't used them for sketching as yet as I'm hesitant about using waterproof ink in them. I also have a Lamy Joy and about 6 Safari's …… I'm just starting to experiment with them in my sketching as I have always loved the feel of fountain pens since a boy in school. I'm really looking forward to the rest of your updates on fountain pens …. it is tremendous that you are willing to share with others – Thank you.

  • RaSonya Pearce says:

    Thank you so much for making this series Liz and spreading the fountain pen fever! I loooooooove fountain pens, especially vintage flex pens, and your writing/ sketches, so this is a win- win combo. I can't wait to see the rest of this series. May you convert many to the inky side!!

  • Liz Steel says:

    thanks Efattori – It is so exciting to hear about people starting!

  • Liz Steel says:

    thanks – I hope for many converts to (I was about to write converters but too bad a pun!)
    Oh! I would love a vintage flex pen…..

  • Liz Steel says:

    thanks for sharing that!

  • efattori says:

    Thank you so much for start his blog and the series of "scketching with fountain pen", i love the white Lamy joy and gold nib combo! found your blo is a inspiration for me for finally make the step of sketch with ink.

  • Kurt_T says:

    LarryPOST in Australia is currently offering a 'Beginners Sketch Kit' of a Lamy Joy, EF nib, converter, and De Atramentis ink.

  • Hi Liz, Loving your postings!!! You got me into fountain pens late last year. I have been very lucky since. My husband goes does a lot of work overseas and used to bring me "stuff" … eg the airplane toiletry bags or conference backpacks etc. We have quite a few. However when I discovered that he is a secret fountain pen addict from the old days but hadn't had one for years I asked him to look for fountain pens overseas instead. Now we share this love and when he comes home , I get a new fountain pen or more when he gets home!!!!!! :-)))) Now we have two loves we share (apart from kids and granddaughter) fountain pens and ukuleles. Beware of them too VERY ADDICTIVE as well!

  • Liz Steel says:

    Hi Clarisa – oh that is too funny (in a good way!!!) have fun- you and your hubby!

  • Liz Steel says:

    Yes! I love mine!!!!

  • John Tochko says:

    Thank you for your unbiased analysis. Great series!

  • PJ Magalhaes says:

    Hey Liz,
    I have my tea, a cushion to sit on and i shall be catching up on your series (i think you are up to post number 5 now) and all the others you have links to, for the rest of my morning and most of the afternoon in lazy old Lapta, Cyprus. Thanks for this, it is really cool of you to share.

  • Sandra Powers says:

    Liz, I have recently started following you and your blogs. I am going to first go through the fountain pen sketching series! I have ordered and received the Liz Steel package from Goulet pens. So now I have the Lamy Joy( mine is black). I removed the cartridge and using a converter, loaded it with ink. It came equipped with a 1.1mm nib. I have been trying to get used to this nib. I really do not think I am going to be comfortable drawing with this nib! I have been using a extrafine and a fine nib. We come to my question…. Do you draw or sketch with this 1.1mm nib on your Joy or do you use another nib for your sketching??? I can see using the Calligraphy nib for writing, but not for drawing! I have also purchased your book on Architecture sketching! It looks to be very informative and is very inspirational!
    I love looking at the sketchs from your trips. They are so good, you feel like you are also visiting this city!???? I can start to read the blogs, and before I know it, I’ve been sitting at my IPad for hours reading!!!you are very lucky to be able to travel so exstinsively! We have been to Italy and Greece awhile back. I would love to go back and now, take a sketchbook with me and my Joy!!!?????
    Thanks for your time! Happy traveling, sketching and “Write on”! Ha!
    Will wait for your reply before trying to draw with my 1.1 nib! May just change it to a fine nib!
    Your new follower and avid admirer………. Sandra Powers

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Sandra – yes I have seen and am relying to your comment. Thanks I do not draw with the 1.1 nib (this is the nib the pen comes with) but use the EF or F nib for drawing. Keep reading this series of articles or go to my sketching tools section for more!

  • Sandra Powers says:

    I do not see any posts since 2015….. I hope you will get this comment and answer it!!!!

  • Liz, I found your website in December, while shopping for a fountain pen and I’ve been back many times.. Thanks for your fresh inspiration and for this easy to understand guide on purchasing a fountain pen. I loved my first fountain pen so much I’ve already bought a second. This leads me to my question, I’ve read instructions that say to not mix ink. I’m assuming this means in the cartridge – is it okay to mix two colours of ink in my drawing? Do you ever do drawings with more than one colour of ink? Looking forward to hearing from you.

  • Paul Schwartz says:

    So useful, thank you! Is the gold nib also Extra-Fine?
    Thanks again!

Leave a Reply